27.2.20

SELFIE-TAKERS ARE ADVISED NOT TO TRESPASS UPON THE RAILWAY.

We'll close February's posts with a public service announcement. Intense video shows family almost getting hit by train while taking photos on the tracks.

A Springfield, Massachusetts television station posted the video, which somebody in Greencastle, Pennsylvania (on Norfolk Southern's former freight main from Hagerstown, Maryland into Pennsylvania) recorded.  The video is also available on Facebook. "An entire family could have been killed earlier due to their stupidity here in front of our local live cam in Greencastle, PA. Edit to add: there were 8 people there total. Mom, Dad, 2 girls, 3 boys and a photographer."

The good news is the trespassers had a fairly long tangent track to get a view of the oncoming train, and scatter, as intermodal trains don't dilly-dally.

Let me draw your attention to something else: in the video we see at least one person using a rail as a balance beam.  This is a hazardous practice for a number of reasons.  Consider, dear reader, that a balance beam is flat on top and textured to provide traction.  A rail is curved on top and covered with grease or grease mixed with water.

By all means, enjoy watching the trains and waving to the engineers, but do so safely.

WE COMPETE AS PRODUCERS, BUT WE ALSO COMPETE AS CONSUMERS.

Perhaps an illustration will help.


National Review's Kevin D. Williamson (via Craig Newmark) comes to terms with what economists have long understood.  "Families find it much more difficult today to have a stay-at-home parent mostly because the labor market now values women's labor much more highly than it once did."

Reality is more subtle.  "[T]o hope that a family can 'get by' on one income with current levels of labor force participation by women is to hope that the laws of conservation in economics don't work." That would be true whether that increased labor force participation is as domestic workers or riveters in shipyards or circuit-board assemblers or high-powered attorneys and investment bankers.

I'm sure the culture-studies types will find all sorts of reasons to rage against Mr Williamson for this.  "If you want to have a stay-at-home mother (stay-at-home fathers are a thing, too, but let’s not pretend that this is a sexually neutral question), then dear old Dad has to earn enough to do two things: 1. Provide the desired standard of living for the family, and 2. Buy Mom out of the labor force on behalf of the firm of Family, Inc."  Once upon a time, there was a division of labor in which the male worked outside the house (whether in the fields or at shop or office; the second shift at home was maintaining the lawn and changing the screens to storm windows and such) and the female maintained the house; now that comes after a hitch of paid work and the battle of the sexes goes on.  But the prices of food and house paint and lawn fertilizer and such reflected the incomes earned by paid labor.

It's the nature of the changing labor force participation by women, particularly married women, that's really at the heart of Mr Williamson's essay.
An Eisenhower-era lawyer was less likely to be married to another lawyer than a contemporary lawyer is. In situations in which the wife’s potential earnings were only a small fraction of her husband’s, having her stay at home imposed only a very modest opportunity cost.

I can hear some of my populist friends already demanding, “Why should my family have to compete with the Fortune 500 for my wife’s time?” That’s just another way of saying, “Why should I have to live in a world with scarcity in it?” And scarcity is real — it is not optional, it is not something invented by economists, nor something that has been foisted on the world by conniving capitalists.

If you want a world in which women’s work is highly valued in the labor market, the opportunity cost of taking women out of the labor market is going to be high.
It's more subtle than that: relax the constraints on the sorts of labor markets women might participate in, and watch people respond to those incentives. Say what you will about "late capitalism:" that people might increasingly find marriage partners who are temperamentally and intellectually more compatible is probably a step toward a general increase in human welfare: the real problem might be that all that assortative mating is exacerbating social stratification.
[O]ur houses are bigger (both in absolute terms and in per-resident terms) and better appointed than they were a generation or two ago, and shopping the elite school districts is something characteristic of relatively affluent families rather than struggling ones — another example of the fact that our policymaking discussion is dominated by and reflects the interests of elites who are well-off but not as well-off as they would like to be. That’s why middle-class tribunes such as Senator Warren spend more time talking about college loans than high-school dropout rates.
Put another way, the work the senator and her daughter once did about The Two-Income Trap, work that now might be disappearing into the memory hole, is really (to return to another of my regular themes) about the absence of a success sequence outside the richer quarters, and about an educational establishment that is doing everything apart from inculcating that success sequence outside the richer quarters.

Modern "progressive" politics: student loan forgiveness in the suburbs, more squalor in the slums.

IS THE POLITICAL CLASS AN IMPEDIMENT TO CIVILIZATION?

I'm only being slightly provocative here.  Dissident former CBS correspondent Bernard Goldberg recently wrote a column opting out of the (false) binary choice the major political parties are offering.

His major premises are straightforward enough.
It’s too bad that Trump has so many character flaws. Too bad because, as I say, I want to vote for the Republican candidate for president; yet, thanks to Trump, I won’t be voting for him in November.

That I find him so unlikeable, in case you’re wondering, won’t drive me into the arms of the Democrats. Their party has lurched so far to the left that I couldn’t possibly support any of their candidates.

Even the Democrats’ “moderates” are left-wingers. They don’t see the same America I do. Their America is a dark place, where only the super-rich are doing well, where ordinary Americans need two or three jobs to put food on the table, a place where racism is ingrained in the nation’s DNA. For Democrats running for president, the glass is always half empty — if that.

And Democrats were out to impeach Trump from the moment he was elected in 2016. You don’t have to like our president to dislike that. There’s no way I’d vote for any of them.
The kicker is further along.  "Some people have told me that it’s anti-American to boycott an election, that Americans fought and died for my right to vote and that I am disrespecting them by not voting."  That's the kind of thing the political class wants to codify in law: no less an authority than former president Barack Obama wanted to make voting, like eating your peas, compulsory.  That position, Sheldon Richman argues, is internally inconsistent.  "If voting is a right, it can't be a duty, and if it's a duty, it can't a right. Perhaps it's neither."

More to the point, in a division of labor society, one marker of an advanced civilization might be that set of important operations we can perform without thinking of them.  We go about our business, some of us govern, some of us participate in selecting those who govern, why should that delegation be any different from that by which one deposit of iron gets mined rather than another to make our cars and cooking ware?

Moreover, opting out might be the only rational choice, when what the political class is offering is a menu of compulsions, as Don "Cafe Hayek" Boudreaux explains.
From angry old socialist Bernie Sanders on the left to earnest young conservative Oren Cass on the right, America today swarms with people lusting for state power to be amassed and deployed to bring about the paradise that each imagines can be realized if enough ‘right’ people are given enough power to command. Of course, the all-important details of each of these coercion-constructed paradises differ from the details of each of the many other fancied paradises – thus promising destructive conflict down the road.

But what is shared by each of the architects of these coercion-constructed paradises is the conceit that he or she, well-meaning genius that he or she is, has uniquely glimpsed a bright future, knows best how to scheme to bring this future about, and can be trusted – cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die – to use the required coercion selflessly, wisely, and in ways that will – contrary to all historical experience – have no unintended ill-consequence.
Hard pass.  Reason's J. D. Tuccille is even unhappier.
Do presidential debates have you considering likely places to stash your cash? Do political polling results have you contemplating waiting it all out in a mountain retreat? Rest assured that you're not overreacting; you're sensibly responding to a political culture that has turned very welcoming to authoritarian candidates and intrusive policies.

There's a good chance that freedom in the days to come will be most available to those willing to hide from the state, break its laws, and sabotage its efforts.
Perhaps so, although the political class might be offering what it believes the electorate wants, or perhaps what it has persuaded the political class to believe what it wants. Before the political class behaves differently, sufficiently many voters and potential voters will have to opt out in such a way that seekers of high office stop thinking that they must offer More Change and More Action in order to be thought of as Effective Politicians.
For those of us looking not for goodies or political thuggery, but for more breathing room instead, there's little encouragement to be found in the debates and the polls. Instead, we'll have to look for loopholes in laws, exceptions to intrusive policies, and ways to confound tax men and inspectors. Our real votes will be for preferred encryption software, places to hide our money and information, and caches for forbidden goods. If we want to retain or expand our freedom, we'll need to stay under the radar as we ignore the powers-that-be, or else make ourselves more trouble to push around than we're worth.

While Trump's Democratic opponents have spent the years since the last presidential election valorizing themselves as "the resistance," all they have to offer is a competing brand of authoritarianism. The real resistance is made up of those who refuse to be governed by any of the wannabe rulers.
You'd think that the continued failures of the political class to deliver would induce a swelling of the ranks of those resistors. Unfortunately, under the rules of a constitutional republic, somebody has to emerge to induce enough of those people to vote for a person, a platform, a party.  Meanwhile, sufficiently many people are voting as if other people are treating the presidential election as a binary choice, and the equilibrium strategy might well be to choose the lesser of the two major evils.

Dissent with your vote.  Be part of the coalition of the unwilling.

25.2.20

FASCHING IST.

I'm hoping this year's pączki consumption will keep the field mice out of the Victor E. Garden.  Now that the Fasching or Karneval or Mardi Gras festivities wind down, we bring you the fund-raising efforts of a Karneval society from the former capital of the Holy Roman Empire, KG Böse Buben Birgel, with local television coverage of their Nubbelverbrennung.


As we have noted previously, the sober times come.

SETTLER-COLONIAL CANADA IS SCARED AND IT SHOWS.

Common Dreams discovers Canada's low-level insurrection.  "The state knows that when we stand together in solidarity with Indigenous peoples and follow their leadership, its legitimacy crumbles."

Pow-wow is still preferable to warpath, but for how much longer?
Canada is presently in the throes of social and political disintegration. A left-leaning electorate has once again empowered a socialist government promoting all the lunatic ideological shibboleths of the day: global warming or “climate change,” radical feminism, indigenous sovereignty, expansionary government, environmental strangulation of energy production, and the presumed efficiency of totalitarian legislation. Industry and manufacturing are abandoning the country in droves and heading south.

Canada is now reaping the whirlwind. The Red-Green Axis consisting of social justice warriors, hereditary band chiefs, renewable energy cronies, cultural Marxists, and their political and media enablers have effectively shut down the country. The economy is at a standstill, legislatures and City Halls have been barricaded, blockades dot the landscape, roads and bridges have been sabotaged, trains have been derailed (three crude-by-rail spillages in the last two months), goods are rotting in warehouses, heating supplies remain undelivered, violent protests and demonstrations continue to wreak havoc—and the hapless Prime Minister, who spent a week swanning around Africa as the crisis unfolded, is clearly out of his depth and has no idea how to control the mayhem.
That's David Solway of Pajamas Media, and the story he describes is a worst-case scenario about Unity in Diversity being anything but.
Canada is composed of a veritable congeries of competing, self-identified mini-nations—English, French, Islamic, Chinese, Sikh, native tribes with multiple patrimonies and unpronounceable names, and sundry political constituencies affiliated with the global left. Contributing factors like indiscriminate immigration from dysfunctional countries, metastasizing socialist doctrine verging on nascent totalitarianism, a state-funded national broadcaster and a deeply compromised print media subsidized by the Liberal government added to the destabilizing brew.
Here I thought an Oberlin or a Brown disintegrating into squabbling factions might be sufficiently cautionary tales. Apparently one of the world's largest (by land mass) countries can disintegrate, and, so far, very few people are noticing.

TREAT THE ROADS LIKE PRODUCTIVE ASSETS.

I'm pleased to see Streetsblog's Kea Wilson taking up the cause.  There are ten steps. some of which are more easily implemented than others.

First, toll roads.
Expanding toll roads into our cities is a simple and effective way to make drivers think twice about hopping behind the wheel when a greener transportation option is available — and help bring the real costs of our auto-centric road network into better alignment with what drivers pay to use it. (Reminder: they only pay about 51 percent of road spending now.)
I wonder if there's a way to sell more widespread road tolling as a way to provide property tax relief, since in much of the country that old Monopoly hazard, being assessed for street repairs, is still part of the town budget.

Second, congestion pricing.  Why not?  As more tolling authorities move to electronic collection-in-transit, how difficult is programming the devices to collect different amounts at different times of the day?

Third, surge pricing for parking.  The suggestion appears to be pitched toward municipal governments, apparently the road socialists are behind the capitalist curve here.

Fourth, increase gas prices.  That's primarily about adding money to the highway trust fund, but perhaps there's some corporate welfare to cut out.  "[T]he U.S. is long overdue to increase its federal gas tax, which hasn’t been raised since 1993. Ending oil company subsidies probably couldn’t hurt, either."

Fifth, taxing vehicles on a miles-travelled basis.
What might be even better than increasing gas taxes is to get rid of them altogether and replace them with something better. After all, when your road network gets more funding from a fuel inefficient vehicle than a hybrid or an electric car, you give lawmakers a perverse incentive not to clean up the vehicle fleet. Wouldn’t it be better if our transportation system rewarded people who drove less — and simply scaled down our road spending as car-focused roads empty out and revenue drops?
First, it's not up to the legislature to clean up the vehicle fleet, the best politicians can do might be to price the assets they own in as efficient a way as they are capable, and rely on the constituents (including the non-voting ones, people respond to incentives) to choose the method of transportation that best serves them at the prices they see.  Second, given that localities are collecting tolls, wouldn't the easier approach be to bundle some of the local road maintenance expenses in with the tolls on the arterials?  That's less challenging than having to keep your electronic toll device current AND filling in a road use tax form each spring.

Sixth, pay-per-mile car insurance.  "It makes a ton of sense for insurance companies, too: a car you leave at home, after all, is literally never going to be found at fault in a crash that triggers an expensive pay-out." Perhaps that's a reason drivers will be less resistant either to a vehicle miles travelled tax or toll transponders, as their insurance company is getting instant updates on their speed and direction from a smart-'phone application.

Seventh, public spaces, including what look like streets, that are closed to cars.  Whatever.  Perhaps the author should have stopped at six, as what follows verges on the Utopian Wonkery.

Eighth, limited issuance of vehicle registrations.
In Beijing, private vehicle ownership is actually capped by a vehicle permit lottery, which limits how many new cars can legally be sold and put on the road. Residents have just a one-in-2,000 chance of winning the lottery, which happens bimonthly; if you don’t win, your transportation needs will still be covered, thanks to the city’s excellent public transit network.

The Chinese government is not exactly forthcoming with their roadway stats, but one report indicates that Beijing’s roadway mortality rates decreased 34 percent between 2014 and 2016. The license lottery has been in effect since 2011, so it’s a pretty good guess that reducing cars on the road had something to do with that astonishing dip.
That's China. Consider the sources. Multiple times.  Is it really prudent to mimic the Soviet methods of distributing refrigerators and televisions?

Ninth, Jimmy Carter style gas rationing, only for the streets themselves.
Here’s how it typically works: every day, drivers whose license plates end with certain numbers are banned from using the roadways outright, or they’re limited to driving during non-peak hours, or only outside of highly congested downtowns. Drivers who violate the ban get ticketed; drivers who don’t get to enjoy less congested streets on their designated driving days; sustainable transportation users, meanwhile, get to move freely along streets with fewer dangerous vehicles threatening their lives.
When market incentives such as parking charges and tolls are available, does it really make sense to create perverse incentives, such as a black market in stolen license plates?
It’s a complicated system that requires a lot of communication, especially when cities adjust their rations dynamically, as some do. But still: isn’t all that bureaucracy worth it if we can save even a single life?
No. Next question.

Finally, perhaps getting rid of the existing system of subsidies and bureaucracies might be preferable.
Hey, we collectively subsidize driving in all kinds of ways, from free parking to debt-fueled car infrastructure to government grants to oil companies and auto manufacturers. Is it really so outrageous to give a cyclist or a bus passenger a few bucks a month, simply for choosing a mode that doesn’t cost carry outrageous costs to society?
Price the roads and parking lots properly and cut out the corporate welfare, and the cyclist or bus passenger is getting those additional bucks, because the taxing authorities aren't extracting that money any more.

YOU MEAN "INAPPROPRIATELY DIRECTED LAUGHTER" CAN BE A CRIMINAL OFFENSE?

That phrase is one of the sillier elements of the Sensitivity Weenies' toolkit against campus incivility and other affronts to the effete snobs.

Apparently, though, there is a Connecticut law that might cover the situation. "Any person who, by his advertisement, ridicules or holds up to contempt any person or class of persons, on account of the creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race of such person or class of persons, shall be guilty of a class D misdemeanor."  I forget whether Connecticut's hierarchy of misdemeanors is an A-worst, or A-least-bad ladder.  Clearly unconstitutional, notes a law professor at ZooConn.

As far as the hierarchy of misdemeanors, the language of the "ridicule statute," which appears to apply to commercial speech, reads enough like contemporary hate crime laws and the diversicrats' incivility ukases, that "inappropriately directed laughter" is evidently a greater faux pas than farting in church.  (Given Connecticut's Puritan past, I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a law dealing with that!)

21.2.20

THE NODDING DONKEYS ARE INDESTRUCTIBLE.

Britain's Passenger Rail operators have wanted to be free of the two-axle Leyland railbuses for years.  "The cars' rough riding properties contributed to the nickname, 'nodding donkeys,' which reflected their design, and the rattling and bouncing could only be augmented by the opposed joints in British track."  Although they've been exiled to the Midlands and points north, they're still moving the people.  "Pacer trains trundle through some of the most beautiful scenery in northern England, across rolling dales and moody moorlands, before pulling up in the great cities of the region: Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield."  Apparently the Midlands are nod-over country.
While some rail enthusiasts retain a certain affection for these unlikely survivors, for people living in the north of England, they've become a symbol of decades of underinvestment in the local transport infrastructure, and of a widening economic north-south divide in the UK.

The complaints are legion. Social media is awash with tales of train roofs leaking, faulty heating and carriages filling up with noxious diesel fumes from the aging engines which power them.
The Pacers are survivors, but they aren't as solid as, say, a Pennsylvania Railroad P70 coach, or the Pullman and Standard arks that served the South Shore Line from 1928 to 1983.

Like the interurban cars, though, the Pacers kept some passenger routes open.  The railbus is the same concept as the doodlebug or rail diesel car in the States.
Despite seemingly widespread dislike for Pacers, rail enthusiasts say that they have actually fulfilled a major purpose.

"Some say that by offering a cheap solution they enabled really small regional branch lines to stay open [in the 1980s] -- that if they had to have really expensive trains, they might have been under greater pressure to close," says Mark ["Man in Seat 61"] Smith.

"At the time there was a threat to rail services and it was said that the Pacers helped to prevent the closures."

"There's also a school of thought that says that some of the Pacers, now that they've been refitted with decent seats rather than bus seats, are actually not that bad and on a line with a decent track even the four-wheel frame isn't that bad," adds Smith.

For many in the north, Pacer trains are indicative of a wider trend, with the region constantly overlooked when it comes to major infrastructure investment. London, which is soon to get an £18.2 billion ($23.7 billion) Crossrail service, always seems to take precedence.
Unfortunately, teething troubles with the new railcars (why is that not a surprise?) might mean the donkeys will continue to nod into the summer.

DOES SANDY SPEAK GERMAN?

Last year, Amazon sought tax breaks to build a new complex in Brooklyn, and the district's new representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Naïf-N.Y.) first opposed it before she took office, then claimed victory when Amazon had enough of the hassles and cancelled the project.

Now, Amazon would like to expand its presence in Germany, but their plans involve an office tower that is not in the imperial parade grounds central business district.
Formerly a largely working class area, the borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has in recent years been subject to increasing levels of gentrification. Shiny corporate buildings now sit in place of former factories.

The latest development in this urbanization process is the construction of the EDGE East Side Berlin. Technology giant Amazon plans to move into the tower, bringing up to 1400 new jobs to the area, and relocating 2000 existing positions.
That is the nature of urban development, there comes a time when the central business district, particularly in a capital city, becomes so expensive to locate in that only the rent-seekers with the deepest pockets locate there.

That's not to say that the existing residents, whether business owners or householders, don't have their own rents to defend.
A representative from Berlin vs Amazon, John Malamatinas, explained to The Local that the main concern of activists is that Berlin will end up like Seattle or San Francisco, also tech hotspots which have faced rapid gentrification in recent years.

"We fear the rising rent," he said, explaining that the group has further apprehensions regarding Amazon such as the "treatment of their employees" and the general "company culture".
The incentives operating in that part of Berlin are consistent with central place theory: the new office tower is in a neighborhood where a new sports arena was built, a Google campus attempted to open, and the accompanying entertainment district is emerging.  Whether Amazon or some other company seeks office space there is irrelevant.  Should that part of Berlin become too expensive for most companies, a different central place will emerge.

That's scant consolation for the current residents of the area.
The borough of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg has been known for embodying a culture of creativity, home to many young artists and creatives who are able to pursue their passions without “breaking the bank”.

The introduction of such a building could contribute to changing the entire district in this sense, said activists ahead of Saturday’s protests.
Thus it always is in the political economy of urban development.  "Here's where the Tragic Vision comes in handy. Markets allocate resources, and urban structure is emergent."  The creatives, themselves, might have displaced other people of modest means when they set up their studios and trendy shops in Friedricshain-Kreuzberg.

THERE'S A MILLION DOLLARS IN THE QUAD, IF YOU'D JUST PICK IT UP.

The latest quest for inequities in higher education takes us to ... Ivy League institutions that are Manhattan in microcosm?  "A new report finds the middle class is heavily underrepresented at elite private colleges -- and boosting low- and middle-income student representation at such colleges could increase U.S. income mobility."

The study in question is by a number of solid quantitative economists, including Raj Chetty and Emmanuel Saez, and among the salient findings we read,
Building on their previous report, researchers found that students whose parents were from the lowest income bracket made up 7.3 percent of students with a test score of 1400 who attended Ivy-plus colleges. That was slightly below the average for all income groups. Students whose parents had the highest incomes made up a larger share, at about 10.8 percent, which was above the average for all groups.

But the students whose parents' incomes are in the middle attended Ivy-plus colleges at rates much lower than the average, between 4.4 percent and 4.7 percent. This means that middle-class students are underrepresented at elite colleges, and the report refers to them as the "missing middle."
We used to have the state flagship universities, land-grants, and mid-majors to provide income mobility.  Apparently, something has gone wrong.  "Whether it's possible for middle-income families to afford elite colleges or not, rising tuition costs are pushing them toward flagship public institutions."  That would not be a bad thing, if the students eligible for admission at the Ivies were getting the same sort of intellectual challenges and networking opportunities at the state flagships, but that statement appears to be conceding they are not.  I had hoped to be proven wrong when I wrote, "Is the competition to get into those elite universities so intense in part because the state flagships and the land-grants and the mid-majors have abdicated their responsibility? Is it really the case that the next generation of Masters of the Universe really requires high-status, stressed-out parents who are outsourcing the child care to nannies?"  Evidently not.  I had hoped that the people in charge of higher education would rethink their priorities.  "And yet, business as usual in higher education seems to be doing anything other than raising expectations, and all the time fretting about how higher expectations are hostile to Access or Diversity. What do they have to lose trying something else?"

Raise expectations, turf out the special education bureaucracies.  What do you have to lose?

YOU DON'T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL TUESDAY FOR PACZKI DAY.

In Poland, "those who don’t eat a stack of pączki on Fat Thursday will have an empty barn and their field destroyed by mice."  That's right: it's permissible to commence the sacking of the larder ahead of Lent on the final Thursday before Ash Wednesday.

It's possible that the tradition of pączki on Tuesday (which we will also honour) is an invention of Detroit journalists.
In the United States and Canada, Pączki Day is celebrated in cities with a sizeable Polish diaspora, like Chicago, Michigan, Detroit, and Windsor, but the sweets treats are eaten on Shrove Tuesday (or Fat Tuesday) rather than on Fat Thursday like in the old continent.

As with many ethnic festivities there's a level of controversy surrounding this new American tradition. The Detroit Metro Times recalls a phone call from an angry reader stating that the holiday is just a clever marketing ploy disguised as a Polish tradition – and that Americans couldn't even get the day right. Pączki Day was supposedly born out of the Hamtramck Pączki Festival but some claim that pączki awareness spread because of the media.
I remember Pączki Day becoming a thing, but, somehow, with the obligations of riding the tenure track, battling the crowds at a bakery the one day the treats were on offer wasn't an option.

Trust the Canadians (Windsor being just to the south of Detroit) to come up with a low-calorie version of the pączek. "In places such as Nana's Bakery you can not only taste the traditional version, but also a local low-calorie version called lowczki."  Apparently the shank end of winter is not a good time for the bakery business (Christmas cookies are done, and wedding cakes not for a while) and pączki are as good a thing as any to keep the ovens hot.  "Polish doughnuts have certainly been appropriated by the baking industry, but all of Poland would certainly tell you to think twice before you turn one down, if you don’t want to find your fields barren and your barns empty…"

I'm looking for a way to apply that curse to the kind of excessively earnest conscience-cowboy who whinges about cultural appropriation.  "May your fields be as barren as your insight and your barns as empty as your intellect?"

"OFFICIAL PSYCHOTIC FANTASY GENERATOR."

That's James "Clusterf**k Nation" Kunstler's characterization of New York's Times, which is (once again) sounding the alarm about possible interference by Russian intelligence in the 2020 presidential election.  That will give the Political Class cover in the event that whoever becomes the Democrat nominee fails.  It's apparently too much to ask that Political Class to engage in introspection.
Does Mr. Trump actually need their help? His opponents have been self-meddling so diligently that their party now looks like a Frankenstein creature assembled from the spare parts of Herbert Marcuse, Tupac Shakur, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, and Jame Gumb. Imagine that monster running a government.
I'll keep it simpler: all they have to do is not be crazy, and they can't even do that.

As far as foreign intelligence services doing what foreign intelligence services do, I don't intend to be surprised.
But is anyone really surprised, let alone scandalized, that foreign intelligence services do what foreign intelligence services do, which is to say, steal secrets and plant stories?  If the Soviets, er, Russians, didn't do that, that would be reason to send generals to gulag and bust colonels back to sergeants.  And there are likely more than twelve spies, er, intelligence officers, working that project.  And if Democrats were careless with their internet security, relative to Republicans, well, that's business.
I would be surprised, though, if Our President responded to any mention of foreign intelligence services attempting to affect the election with something reasonable, like, "That's what they do. We have a record to run on. Our opponents have their disorder to run on."

20.2.20

NEVER MIND THE GROUNDHOG. THERE'S FROZEN CUSTARD.

It might be rushing things, with the coldest days of 2020 occurring right now, and yet, Ollie's custard stand has opened for the season.
Luis Ramirez and Dave Fowler stood outside Ollie’s Frozen Custard about 1 p.m. Wednesday for the shop’s sweet treats during its first day of the season.

Fowler said they’ve come to Ollie’s on opening day for the past five years.

“No matter what the weather is, we’re here,” Fowler said. He remembered one year people stood in line during a blizzard to get the custard. “There were some die-hards that were here. It’s part of the experience.”
Been there, done that.

Wednesday's flavor: strawberry. Make mine the Huskie sundae (Oreos and strawberries) on strawberry custard.

IMPEACH IN HASTE, REPENT AT LEISURE.

Now that the Senate has acquitted Our President, the Democrats seem bent on demonstrating that a failure to convict and remove will lead to a public loss of faith in national institutions by failing to properly count the votes in a caucus and failing to conduct a candidates' forum that doesn't degenerate into a shouting match.

Why should Democratic incompetence in February be any different from Democratic incompetence in conducting an impeachment?
It was perfectly fair for Democrats to set all the rules in the House impeachment process. They held secret testimony, and then they held hearings with no GOP witnesses. Then they held hearings where maybe the White House could have witnesses, at Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler’s discretion, but those witnesses couldn’t have legal counsel.

Then instead of subpoenaing the witnesses they wanted like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney, the Democrats said, “Oh my goodness, there’s no time for that, this is an emergency, we have to impeach Trump RIGHT NOW!” Even without those witnesses. At that point, they sat on the articles of impeachment for weeks hoping for some miracle to save their hopeless case. And by the way, if the acquittal isn’t legitimate because we didn’t hear from Bolton, how on earth is the impeachment itself legitimate?

The speed with which coordinated Democratic talking points infect the news media represents some of the most efficient propaganda the nation has ever seen. Efficient, but not effective.
That's The Federalist's David Marcus, and yes, he has a point of view, and yet, wouldn't an investigation that, oh, developed the evidence, and interviewed the witnesses, and obtained court orders where sources and methods or executive privilege arose, have been more effective?

Here's law professor Jonathan Turley making a similar argument.
House Democrats made a decision to choose certain failure over completing their impeachment case. There was no reason to expect Senate Republicans to assist House managers in making their case, particularly in calling witnesses not subpoenaed by the House. Democrats had opposed any witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Clinton and voted as a bloc for a summary acquittal. There was no reason to expect Republicans to adopt an entirely different approach.

We will never know how this impeachment trial would have unfolded if the House had waited to secure additional testimony and court orders. One thing, however, is certain. The case against the president could only have become stronger. The vote for witnesses failed by one for a tie and by two for a majority. A more complete record could well have tipped the balance and certainly would have made the vote against witnesses more difficult for some senators. Instead, the House submitted an incomplete record and failed to subpoena important witnesses like Bolton, making it quite easy for the Senate to refuse to do what the House had never even tried.

None of the explanations offered by House Democrats make any logical sense. That, however, does not matter. As Todd said of supporters of the president, people “want to be lied to sometimes” and “do not always love being told hard truths.” The hard truth is that House Democrats lost this case the minute they rushed an impeachment vote, and they knew it. With the approaching Iowa caucuses, they chose a failed impeachment rather than taking a few more months to work on a more complete case against Trump, a case more difficult to summarily dismiss.
Yes, and whatever effect that hurried impeachment (see Mollie Hemingway for all the ways the Donks screwed up) might have on voters in the general election might be overwhelmed by, oh, that failed count of caucus participants or that smackdown of a candidates' forum, and we have yet to see whether allocating delegates proportionally in primaries will force a brokered convention in Milwaukee.  The American Conservative's Peter van Buren sees that voters, particularly those loyal to Our President, will weigh the evidence and find the Democrats wanting.
If they had a real case a special prosecutor could have sorted through Parnas and Hunter and Bolton, with subpoenas if necessary, and warrants could have shown us exactly what was said in those calls. But that would have come up weaker than Mueller and the Democrats knew it.

You don’t think voters see they were played — again? As with Brett Kavanaugh, when things seemed darkest, the Democrats produced a witness that appeared to turn everything around.
Yes, Bullwinkle can only pull that "new evidence has turned up" rabbit out of his hat a few times before people get wise to the scam.  Mr van Buren concludes with an observation consistent with Reality Prevailing (q.v.)  "Would you trust the nation to the people the Democratic party has become? Because that is the question Democrats have thrust into the minds of voters. As they have said many times, this was always more about America than it was about Trump."  And with that Iowa failure in mind, an Adam Schiff quote Commentary's John Podhoretz found is particularly amusing.
The idea that the coming of the Iowa caucus would serve as a key factor regarding the timing of an effort to do so revealed the hollowness of the effort. Perhaps the key moment in the entire process was Rep. Adam Schiff saying that it was necessary to impeach Trump to make sure “he doesn’t cheat again.”
To a first approximation, calling attention to what might be campaign malfeasance is a valid political move, but using a strong sanction such as impeachment, particularly in such a rushed way, isn't. We'll see how voters respond, come November.

Perhaps, though, the real repentance will be among Democrats.  David "Voluntary Xchange" Tufte suggested that the timing of the inquiry coincided with a brief surge by Massachusetts senator Elizabeth "Fauxahontas" Warren in the polls.  Perhaps the Democrat Women's Caucus saw an opportunity to sink former vice president Joe Biden.  Now Mrs Warren, Mr Biden, and the unlikely beneficiary, Minnesota senator Amy "I'm just here for the ranch" Klobuchar herself perhaps also past her surge and back to the Lake Wobegon church supper.

I'll see Dave his conjecture and raise a wilder one:  did Donald Trump troll the Democrats into conducting the inquiry just to get it out of the way?  Yes, he professes to be distressed with that mark on his resume; on the other hand, he was comparing and contrasting his economy (it's not his economy; presidents get too much blame and take too much credit) with the pressure from the Resistance to impeach him in rallies for at least a year and a half.

THEIR OVER-REACH WILL BE THEIR UNDOING.

Mark Bauerlein, who might be Cold Spring Shops's favorite professor of English, lays out the evolution of vanguardism.
We begin with a longstanding norm, one embraced more or less by everyone. At some point, a vanguard of progressives comes along to challenge, decry, and subvert the norm. At first, the populace rejects the critics and the middle is secure (for instance, the way the Beat Generation was confined in the 1950s to small social enclaves).

But the critics don’t give up. They press the point in movies, the media, classrooms, and courtrooms, turning those spaces into forums of dissent.

They begin, too, with a benign premise: let’s not take our values for granted, let’s examine our assumptions, consider alternative viewpoints. We are a relatively open society, we have a natural American penchant for innovation, and so the consideration moves forward.

As the genuinely radical nature of progressive critics emerges, conservatives, traditionalists, and some moderate liberals step up and cry, “Whoa!” It’s not that they are trying to shut the other side up or end the debate. Instead, they have examined the progressive line of thinking and judged it wrong. The goal, then, is to oppose any action taken on the basis of the critique. Keep on talking, they say, but we don’t want to change our laws, our education, our norms, our country.
Sometimes, though, the transgressives might have a point: the Beats, for example, being able to point to racial segregation and rigid sex roles at the same time they were subverting the dominant paradigm.  Like anything else in human interaction, it's about striking a balance.
What is the proper balance between freedom for the avant-garde and continuity of the stable society that makes the avant-garde possible? And what happens when, as many German voters perceived during the Weimar era, and many U.S. voters currently perceive, the avant-garde is monopolizing the institutions of higher learning, of the performing arts, and of the entertainment in ways that are destabilizing the society?
Professor Bauerlein suggests social evolution works as if controlled by a ratchet: once the avant-garde deconstruct something, it stays deconstructed.
The old normal is now uptight, boring, oppressive; the formerly radical is now interesting, expressive, incisive.

It takes effect by pulling moderate liberals and conservatives to the left, little by little. The centrist who liked “family values” in 1992 now supports same-sex marriage. He used to regard integration as the antidote to racial tension; now he countenances separate dorms and graduations for students of color.

Some of those in the center shift because they accept the inevitability of the leftward trend. By going along with this or that revision, they think they can preserve this or that institution and policy. Others go with the flow because they fear the reaction of the Left should they not comply.

Progressives are inspired. They force people into either/or positions; they don’t do grey. And if they manage to control the gateways to success, as they do in academia, technology, entertainment, mainstream media, and, increasingly, the professions, individuals have to play ball.
That works, I submit, until it doesn't.
Reality, which is emergent, tends to be socially conservative,  And the snooty-ass gentry have, inter alia, erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance; declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatever; and excited domestic Insurrections among us.  And they fret about the Incomprehensible Others thinking of torches and pitchforks.  It is the Right of the People to Alter or Abolish.
Yes, that's a reference to electoral politics, but it's germane to the Kultursmog as well.
Yes, and to use the formulation popular on the trendy left when it comes to sexual practices or obnoxious music or any of the other manifestations of transgressiveness, that toothpaste is out of the tube.  Donald J. Trump may fail, for not doing the groundwork, to secure the Republican nomination, and yet the sentiments that he speaks to, that is the contempt of normal Americans for the metrofexual smug, will not so easily fade.
Professor Bauerlein proposes the first step in pushing back against the smug.
The moment a conservative hears talk of polarization, he should say, “And who caused it?” Remind these civic-minded moderates that conservatives don’t want polarization. They don’t like extremism. Progressives do. They know that a society with a large, generally contented middle doesn’t easily slip into social reform. Tell these neutral observers that polarization is not an unfortunate consequence of rising extremism or some other trans-ideological cause. It is exactly what the American Left has wanted all along.
It's not so much slipping into "social reform" as it is sliding into generalized incoherence that conservatives ought be pushing back against.  "The social destruction that erupted in the 1960s began with the premise that the machinery of prosperity would always be working, no matter how outrageous the mockery of the avant-garde or the hippies or the race hustlers was.  Woodstock could always coexist with moon shots." The institutions the avant-garde own? Not so much.  Reality will have the final say.

SUMMER JUST GOT A LITTLE LESS ENTERTAINING.

I'm getting a little too old for extreme roller coasters, but when the opportunity to sample a new roller coaster in the style of the traditional amusement park, count me in.

In the land of four seasons, a summer-only enterprise, such as an amusement park or a drive-in movie theater, leads a perilous existence, particularly as urban development gets closer.  Thus, when the Apex Park chain of amusement parks closes Fantasy Island, near Niagara Falls, and Indiana Beach, just north of Lafayette, it's a sad day at Cold Spring Shops.
Apex Parks Group was formed in 2014. The company has acquired numerous family entertainment centers and waterparks. No reason was given for the sale of the rides. All the steel coasters are available for sale. Of the four wooden coasters (all by the former Custom Coasters International, Inc.), only Silver Comet (1999) is listed. The words “Sell if possible” were noted on the list supplied to possible buyers. The three other wooden coasters at Indiana Beach would have challenges if a move was attempted. Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain (2002) is built into a themed structure. Hoosier Hurricane (1994) and Cornball Express (2001) have some shared structure.
Silver Comet pays tribute to Crystal Beach's Comet; I never made the time to check it out.  When they call Hoosier Hurricane and Cornball Express custom coasters, they're not kidding.  The structure of at least one of them runs over water, that will make adapting it to a new site more challenging.

19.2.20

EXPERTISE OUGHT BE TESTED BY EMERGENCE.

The Wall Street Journal's online Best of the Web, which has long since vanished (behind a paywall?) used to introduce items with the question, "What Would We Ever Do Without Experts?"  Generally that would introduce an "Experts Say" item that might have been staggeringly obvious or staggeringly wrong or simply look silly.  That mind-set, though, has caught on in Popular Opinion, and in The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, author Tom Nichols suggests we mock experts at our peril.

In Book Review No. 2 (so much for getting a fast start on a 50 Book Challenge this year), I argue that Mr Nichols conflates two kinds of expertise.  In his preface, at page xv, he cautions the resentful, "Ordinary citizens may be disdainful of 'expertise,' but they benefit from it every day without even thinking of it.  Each time we turn a tap and drink fresh, clean water, it is a triumph for a panoply of experts from chemists to city planners to, yes, even politicians and policymakers.  We think of all this as the normal order of things."

That is, civilization advances by allowing helpful forms of expertise, trade-tested and subject to evaluation and selection, to emerge, and less helpful forms to vanish.  It's not an "angry, resentful populism" when journalists' biases and special pleading by credentialed hired guns and data fetishes displace judgement, and that puts the notion of meritocracy in doubt.

Here, Mr Nichols misses a chance to make his argument, as he conflates what he concedes is the socially necessary irrelevance of self-dealing obscurantists in the academy and among the public intellectuals, with the disdain postmodern skepticisms foster for any sort of coherent beliefs.  When he complains, page 15, about how "we cannot function without admitting the limits of our knowledge and trusting in the expertise of others," he had the opportunity to recognize the I, Pencil argument, and from there it would be straightforward to identify the value of expertise tested by emergence, as well as to adjudicate his claim that going along to get along, see pages 64-65, puts two desirable principles, cooperation and division of labor, at odds, and spell out the toxic consequences of consenting to the dictatorship of the sociable disguised as consensus.

That's not where we go, though: rather, we take a journey through expensive credentialing hothouses that teach their clients nothing, and participation trophies, and ... everything but recognizing the importance of testing ideas against reality whilst retaining the discipline of No Final Say.  It is only in that way that the role of the expert as servant steward Mr Nichols favors, see page 208, can be sustained.  But a servant steward must temper principle with practicality and not give the impression of participating in a deep state or some similar ruling cabal.  Here's where things can get scary.  Mr Nichols, at page 236, is so frustrated with the impertinence of the rubes that he expresses the fear, or is it gives voice to a wish, that a technocracy will "run out of patience" and dispense with "voting as anything other than a formality."

There are days when I have trouble thinking about the continued investigations of the Trump presidency, or the protracted withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, as anything other than that fear being a fact of lifeJust another day in It's For Your Own Good.

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

DIVERSITY IS NOT A CURRICULUM.

That ought to be obvious, but, then, over the past thirty years, higher education has built up massive institutional inertia dedicated to the proposition that Diversity is Our Highest Value.  Mark Bauerlein elaborates.
Educators took down Western Civ, but diversity prevented them from devising anything to take its place. What appeared during the 1980s to be an invigorating and just revision of a narrow curriculum turned out to be no curriculum at all.

And students realized it. The protesters in 1987 got all the attention, as they always do, but in fact, the Western Culture course was quite popular because it gave students a coherent story, an overarching structure. The diversity approach scrapped it because the identification or “construction” of a lineage, a canon or a core excludes other things.

And that’s true, one lineage excludes others, but that exclusion is necessary to a successful course in the humanities. This is a cognitive matter, and perhaps an aesthetic one, too, wherein learning is enhanced by the materials being learned having form and unity and design. It is not a political issue.

Professors who want to diversity their syllabi should have recognized this long ago. If they are tired of the West, of WASP America and of dead white males, they must replace them with new materials but set them within a similar structure. A grab bag of “diversity” won’t work -- it hasn’t worked. Teachers should drop the language of diversity and inclusion entirely and instead speak of the heritageof African art, the canon of feminist philosophy, the tradition of the Latin American novel …

The diversiphiles probably won’t do this, because a rich multicultural sense of the past was never their aim. They wanted to tear down Western Civ, not build up non-Western curricula. But if they can’t change their minds, they will continue to see their classrooms shrink, and their influence, too.
The two words, higher education, coexist in that description for a reason.

IS OUR PRESIDENT A POOR DELEGATOR?

Now that the first impeachment trial is finished, what happened?

National Review's editors suggest that an impeachable offense ought be Something Serious.
Senate Republicans, by and large, have reached an unspoken consensus about President Trump and Ukraine. He should not have put a temporary freeze on congressionally authorized aid to Ukraine, should not have dabbled with using the aid to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden or a nutty theory about Ukrainian hacking during the 2016 election, and should not have kept defending his “perfect call” as such. At the same time, his conduct does not merit his removal from office — especially since voters will get to pass judgment on that conduct in a few months.

It’s a reasonable position, and it’s the case that Republicans ought to make in public. They are inhibited from doing so by the president’s obstinacy. Instead of sticking to the most defensible case for a Senate acquittal of Trump, Republicans from the president on down are making arguments that range from the implausible to the embarrassing.
Power Line's Paul Mirengoff appears to concur.
Trump’s attorneys have argued that Trump didn’t do anything wrong by linking U.S. aid to Ukraine (for a time) with an investigation of the Bidens. They say that the Bidens acted corruptly, and that their corruption needed to be investigated. In this view of things, Trump was promoting the national interest in fighting corruption, rather than trying to promote his own political fortunes.

I find this argument unpersuasive for two related reasons. First, to say that the Bidens needed to be investigated is not to say that Ukraine needed to investigate them. If Joe Biden committed an offense by using the threat of an aid cutoff to advance his family’s economic interests, that’s a matter for the U.S. to investigate — just as the allegation that Trump used the same threat to advance his political interests was a matter for the U.S. to investigate (though not via impeachment).
Perhaps an illustration will help.


First, I have trouble getting too exercised over favors for favors, even if you try to make it sound scary by rendering the action in Latin.  "Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer; and it is in this manner that we obtain from one another the far greater part of those good offices which we stand in need of."  Yes, that's Adam Smith, and he's writing about commerce, and yet, isn't an exchange of favors for favors the essence of human interaction?  Only an intellectual, or a politician, might believe that exchanges of favors are evil per se.

Former plain-speaking Secretary of Education and current Senator from Tennessee Lamar Alexander might have gotten to the heart of the matter.  Here's another National Review editorial.
Alexander expressed the correct view on the underlying matter — one we have been urging Republicans to publicly adopt since impeachment first got off the ground.

The Tennessee Republican said that it has been amply established that Donald Trump used a hold on defense aid to pressure the Ukrainians to undertake the investigations that he wanted, and that this was, as he mildly put it, inappropriate. But this misconduct, he argued, doesn’t rise to the level of the high crimes and misdemeanors required to remove a president from office. If the Senate were to do so anyway, it would further envenom the nation’s partisan divide. Besides, there is a national election looming where the public itself can decide whether Trump should stay in office or not.

Since we already know the core of what happened, Alexander explained, there was no need to hear from additional witnesses in the Senate trial.
The senator's public statement extends that argument.
It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.

The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday.

The Senate has spent nine long days considering this ‘mountain’ of evidence, the arguments of the House managers and the president’s lawyers, their answers to senators’ questions and the House record. Even if the House charges were true, they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.

The framers believed that there should never, ever be a partisan impeachment. That is why the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate for conviction. Yet not one House Republican voted for these articles. If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist. It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party.
Note, dear reader, the weaseliness of "inappropriate." If you disapprove of somebody farting at dinner or giggling at a funeral, you can say "inappropriate." If you disapprove of a snide remark at a faculty meeting, you can say "inappropriate."  When your partner ruffs your ace, you can say "inappropriate."  If Houston Astro batters hear a lot of chin music this season, the broadcasters can say "inappropriate."

In a Meet the Press session, the senator gave the game away.
CHUCK TODD: Does it wear on you, though, that one of the – I mean -- one of the foundational reasons, ways that the framers wrote the Constitution was almost fear of foreign interference?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: That's true.

CHUCK TODD: So, and here it is.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: Well, if you hooked up with Ukraine to wage war on the United States, as the first senator from Tennessee did, you could be expelled. But this wasn't that. This was the kind -- what the president should have done was, if he was upset about Joe Biden and his son and what they were doing in Ukraine, he should have called the Attorney General and told him that and let the Attorney General handle it the way they always handle cases that involve public figures.

CHUCK TODD: And why do you think he didn't do that?

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER: Maybe he didn't know to do it.
Put another way, there are established (shall we say appropriate?) ways in which a president can get the same thing accomplished (a review of foreign corruption and a suspension of foreign aid) without provoking an impeachment inquiry.

As Meet the Press sessions go, this one wasn't too bad.  Chuck Todd dialed back his usual truculent chipmunk persona for this Republican.  The show, in common with a lot of businesses these days, doesn't present everything over the air or in print.  The full interview is still available online, and there are no reverses or other surprises in there.  (I'm less inclined to embed video from NBC, as they raise hell with my ad-blocker.  Shouldn't they be grateful for me finding them additional eyeballs?)

CHICAGO IS WHAT DEMOCRATS DO.

Don Surber isn't impressed.  "Chicago is the Democrat Model For Cities where the rich get The Magnificent Mile -- North Michigan Avenue -- with its shops, hotels, restaurants, and museums, and the poor get the slums, and the middle class get to leave."  The privilege zone actually extends to Wrigleyville northwest of Water Tower Place and then southward to the museum campus.  Otherwise, though, his analysis is on the money.  I'd add: it's becoming dangerous to use the L trains even for travel within the privilege zone; and every so often the residents of the slums go on a shopping stealing spree along the Mag Mile.

18.2.20

ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENTS IN REGIONAL RAIL.

The Madison model railroad show took place last weekend, and among the exhibitors there were the Wisconsin Association of Rail Passengers, with supporting material from the Illinois and Minnesota Passenger Rail advocates.

The desired improvement on the Illinois side of the Cheddar Curtain involves ten round trips with a maximum speed of 90 mph.  I have to wonder about that: three intermediate stops (Milwaukee's airport, Sturtevant, and a conditional Glenview stop) and the best we can do is an 87 minute train.

I know I repeat myself, but repeat myself I must.


That's a similar spacing of trains to the proposed expanded service.  With today's diesels and Free Rein to 110, is it too much to ask for an 80 Minute Train or a 75 Minute Train making those three stops?

Several of those 1941 trains continued beyond Milwaukee: to Green Bay, Wausau, the Cities, and the West Coast.  The good news is that Minnesota's Passenger Rail advocates are beginning to see the value of a corridor through their state.  Eastbound, a 7 am departure from Fargo - Moorhead, a noon departure from the Cities (much like the Afternoon Hiawatha) and a 7.15 pm arrival in Chicago.  Westbound, a 10.20 am departure from Chicago (that was a Hiawatha time slot until recently; the Morning Hiawatha left at 10.30); leave the Cities at 6 pm for a 10.30 crossing of the Red River.

I like the way they're thinking in Minnesota.
The second easiest and least costly route to implement in Minnesota is a second train from St. Paul/Minneapolis-Fargo/Moorhead on the current Amtrak route through St. Cloud. This could be a daytime train leaving Fargo/Moorhead in the early morning going east and leaving St. Paul in the evening headed west. The most cost effective way to operate this service would be as a continuation of the proposed second train between the Twin Cities and Chicago. To achieve the highest ridership and cost recovery, we believe the route should extend to Fargo/ Moorhead rather than just St. Cloud.

Currently Amtrak serves St. Cloud, Staples, and Detroit Lakes, but additional stops at Little Falls, Wadena, and a northern suburb like Fridley or Anoka for a Minneapolis oriented stop should be seriously evaluated. This route could eventually support three trains a day (morning, noon and late afternoon plus the current overnight Empire Builder service. One train could be extended to Grand Forks and Winnipeg in the future.
Exactly.

JUST LET LOCATIONAL ARBITRAGE WORK.

John "Grumpy Economist" Cochrane finds that missing affordable housing.  "If housing is too expensive, allow the supply curve to operate."  He also finds those excess Ubers.  "If the streets are congested with cars, charge all cars for using the streets."  Exactly.

Unfortunately, there might be policy actors, in California and elsewhere, whose salaries depend on avoiding those straightforward actions.  "We tend to look to laws, edicts, regulations and other top-down solutions to problems."

Perhaps it's wise for the policy community to back off, before their actions push out the very constituents they'd like to push around.

SOMETIMES GOD HAS A SENSE OF HUMOR.

Ram Trucks hired longtime news reader Paul Harvey to narrate "God Made a Farmer."


That clip has become a thing again, as a seeker of the Democrat nomination who has yet to win a delegate has added "denigrating farmers" to "banning your Big Gulp."  The push-back has a torque ratio the Dodge boys would love to claim.


The mayor might have been quoted out of context, according to a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel fact-check.
In the video circulated on Twitter, Bloomberg says: “I could teach anybody, even people in this room so no offense intended, to be a farmer. It's a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that.”

But the video deleted the first part of that statement, in which Bloomberg says, “if you think about the agrarian society (that) lasted 3,000 years, we could teach processes.”

In the full video, the Democrat presidential candidate wasn't referring to modern agriculture at all, and "Team Trump is deliberately misleading Americans,” said Bloomberg spokesman Brandon Weathersby.

In the video, Bloomberg went on to address U.S. manufacturing and more about agriculture, saying: “Then you have 300 years of the industrial society. You put the piece of metal on the lathe, you turn the crank in the direction of the arrow and you can have a job. And we created a lot of jobs. At one point, 98% of the world worked in agriculture; today it’s 2% in the United States. Now comes the information economy, and the information economy is fundamentally different because it’s built around replacing people with technology … You have to have a lot more gray matter.”
That "turn the crank in the direction of the arrow" sounds even more patronizing, doesn't it?  Patronizing, though, is the Sophisticated Democrat Way.  "Mike, Farmers knew how to code long before you were born." On top of that, it's more the tone of the Sophisticated Democrats than the tone of Our President that motivates Trump voters.  Consider Salena Zito's visit to some of the same places in Wisconsin that political scientist Catherine J. Cramer studied.
They all said their vote for Trump wasn't for him but rather for their communities.

It was an abstract and complicated decision that rarely makes sense to people who don't walk in their shoes, live in their ZIP code or understand how long establishments within both parties have let them down, their parents down, their grandparents down and their children down.

"People who don't know farmers or live near or in a farm community have little idea of why we feel so connected to our place," said [dairy farmer Donna] Leum. "But they do seem to have strong opinions about who we are, and when they find out we supported Trump, they look at us as that dumb farmer who doesn't know any better."

"Well those dumb farmers, they're an electrician. They're a plumber. They are mechanics, scientists, conservationists. They take care of the crops that fill their cupboards, (who) love and care for the animals who provide dairy and meat for their feasts. They are also vets and engineers," she says with pride and a broad smile. "I mean, we have all these skills because you cannot keep calling repair people, so you do it yourself. So actually, I think we are pretty darn smart."
That's a lesson Professor Cramer could have drawn, but didn't.
In practice, what she sees might more readily be understood as the failure of one-size-fits-all public policies, which is to say, what I understand as the error of thinking of the states as operating units of the federal government, or the corollary error of thinking of the counties as operating units of the state government.  What looks good on paper in Madison might not work at all well when it comes to counting deer or conserving minnows Up North.  Particularly when the state employees are long-time beneficiaries of the blue social model and the residents of the Seventh District are saying "what recession" because it's been twenty years of rough sledding long before foreclosures on McMansions became a thing.  Put another way, it's not so much rural voters voting contrary to their interests as it is voting to protect themselves against policymakers who hold them in contempt.
Apparently, though, being contemptuous still plays well enough with the legacy press and on the coasts.

DEVELOPING THAT HUMAN CAPITAL.

I have long been critical of the Rockford- area television stations covering high-school sports to the near-exclusion of everything else, whether it's in sports, or in education.
I've previously griped about the nature of sports coverage on Rockford television, slightly reworded, it's like this.  "Rockford television stations would put the story of a Chicago Cub pitcher carrying a perfect game against the White Sox into the ninth inning hitting a walk-off home run [of the seventh game of the World Series] that breaks up the Sox pitcher's no-hitter behind a story involving a high school cross country team that's running in the state championship."  In the ongoing basketball playoffs, it was the Toronto Raptors, not the nearby Milwaukee Bucks, getting what little coverage there is in a year the Bulls are working on their golf, because a Rockford Auburn graduate now wears a Raptor jersey.  And senior signing day is generally a sports thing, not an academic thing.

Meanwhile, Rockford is still dealing with a twenty-year-old Money magazine "" ranking and a more recent third most miserable" from Forbes.
On the positive side, one of the stations covered a skilled trades competition a year ago, and more recently, a building trades career and apprenticeship fair.
Students, union representatives, and event coordinators all agreed that this expo does more than just land people jobs, it kick starts careers.

"You can earn a great living, you can raise a family, you can take a vacation. You're going to be able to experience things that we call the American dream," Business Representative for the Painters District Council number 30 John Penney said.

Students who join one of the 16 trade unions or five schools to train apprentices in Rockford can learn the tools of the trade for free, and union reps say they need the help.

"These students will be able to come in get that experience, get that education for zero dollars, and in this day and age with college debt continuing to climb, this is a great opportunity," Penney said.
It's all of one segment, and the regional and state bowling tournaments still rate more coverage, and yet, it's worth noting that something goes on in the high schools before the opening whistle.

THE WHOLE WORLD IS WATCHING.

Public renderings became available, and construction began, on a new basketball arena in Milwaukee about the same time the Trump candidacy became a thing.  I think the first Milwaukee area radio talker to invoke a famous comb-over was Charlie Sykes, now operating The Bulwark (with its unaccountable ship-of-the-line logo).


The arena is now in place, naming rights sold, and it's been short-listed as a future site for professional basketball's All-Star game, but that will be 2025 or later, by which time the Trump presidency will belong to the ages.  The point of building the arena was to be in compliance with pro basketball's requirements for total seating and a few other amenities.  It became part of the city's package of amenities to host the Democrats' nominating convention, which will take place in mid-July, fortunately before German Fest launches the Oktoberfest season.

Because there aren't enough hotel rooms in the Milwaukee area, a number of delegations are planning to engage space in the Greater Chicago area, and brave road congestion to get to and from the proceedings.  Let the record show that the Milwaukee-area expressways have been under construction for much longer than the interval from ground-breaking to first center jump with the widening of Interstate 94 still in progress, showing the Party of Infrastructure exactly what government failure looks like.  None of which will stop the highway lobby from making the case that a third lane on Interstate 43 from Silver Spring Road north to the Grafton area or to Saukville will be just the fix for the congestion there.